‘Trip of a lifetime’

Published 4:02 pm Monday, July 25, 2011

The Boy Scouts of Troop 1 and some of their chaperones on their recent 8,000-mile trip across America pose with one of two trailers and vans that carried them, along with a bear mascot they acquired along the way, after their return on Saturday evening. They visited sites such as Yellowstone National Park and went white-water rafting on their journey.

It was a scene of chaos in the parking lot of Baker Funeral Home on West Washington Street Saturday evening.

Boy Scouts and chaperones piled out of the three vans and an RV that had carried them away from the same place 23 days before. They greeted their parents and siblings, showed off battle wounds and excitedly told stories before they began unloading trailers attached to two of the vans.

Boy Scout Troop 1 was returning from a three-week, 8,000-mile trip across America that carried the 26 Scouts and 14 adults from Suffolk to Montana and back, stopping at a variety of historic sites, national parks and monuments, natural wonders and more along the way.

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“This is the first time we’ve done anything like this,” said Robert Baker, Scoutmaster of the troop. “I just think it’s a neat way for kids to grow up and give them a chance to see things, because some won’t ever have that opportunity.”

The troop left Suffolk on July 1 and headed for the Buffalo Bill Scout Reservation in Cody, Wyo. Along the way, they visited St. Louis, Mo.; Rocky Mountain National Park; Mount Rushmore; Crazy Horse and Rapid City, S.D.; Devil’s Tower National Park; Glacier National Park; Lewis and Clark Discovery Center; Yellowstone National Park; and more.

After a week at the Scout reservation, the troops headed home by way of a different route, stopping to go white-water rafting on the Snake River, view the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, visit Graceland and the Grand Ole Opry, plus many other sites.

The troop has been planning the trip for about a year and a half, Baker said. Scout leaders decided they wanted to do a three-week trip, located the Scout reservation they wanted to stay at and then developed the itinerary of sites along the way. Before departing, each Scout chose a site and then researched it so he could provide a report to his comrades before arriving.

Except for the campground, the group stayed in churches with shower facilities, Baker said.

“It was all amazing,” said 13-year-old Connor King, a Nansemond-Suffolk Academy student. He recounted seeing various wildlife including wolves, bison, elk and antelope.

Gage Turner, a 12-year-old King’s Fork Middle School student, said his favorite part of the trip was the camp, “because camp is awesome.”

However, both he and Connor agreed their least favorite part of the trip was going through Kansas.

“There’s nothing there,” both boys reported, although Connor said he enjoyed seeing the giant rendering of Vincent van Gogh’s “Three Sunflowers in a Vase” that sits near the interstate in Goodland, Kan.

As for Baker, he reported his favorite part was getting all the boys home safe — despite spider bites, ingrown toenails and three blown-out tires along the way.

Not that any of the parents ever doubted the boys would come home safely, according to Jackie King, Connor’s mother.

“You have utmost faith in them,” she said of Baker and the rest of the chaperones. “It’s not like in the olden days when I went to camp. It really was the trip of a lifetime.”

“It’s a growing experience,” Baker said, noting that many of the boys never would have gotten the chance to take a similar trip if it weren’t for the Boy Scouts. “They tend to grow up because they get a little more independent. They learn how to take care of themselves, and that’s what Scouts is all about.”